Sunday, July 18, 2010
The Saffron Kitchen ~ Review
I recently finished reading the book "The Saffron Kitchen" by Yasmin Crowther. It was a wonderfully written book about immigration in England, adjusting to a new culture, the lasting impact of decisions, and dealing with the past. Seems like a lot jammed into one book right? It is, but it felt effortlessly executed.
The story follows two main characters a mother and daughter over around a 6 month period. The mother is from Iran and lives in England and the daughter, a school teacher, grew up in England in a hodgepodge mix of a household. There is an extremely traumatic event that sends the mother into a frenzy and back to Iran to deal with her past. The daughter follows her there and through it all they come to understand each other.
I found the story to be heartwarming and frustrating all at the same time. A giant piece of the story is about the mother's secret past. She has kept it hidden from her family and it has tortured her for years. We learn this story very slowly a piece at a time (which i love! I think it's essential to great story telling). But the thing is that in the end the mother's past rules her. She doesn't get over it or neccesarily learn from it... she rejoins it. A big thing for me is to not dwell in or on the past. It happened.. it's done. The main character couldn't do that in this story. She was stuck 30 years prior, regretting what happened and how she was treated. She went back to Iran, back to her old village, and back to a forgotten life. That is what i didn't like about this story.
What I did like about this story and book was it's focus on family. We all have our own individualized view about what family is and how it should work, but this story was another great example of how there is no great model for family. They all work differently. The book shows us what life is like in a very rural Iran. There is a community set up that cares for the children communally. I liked that. Then we also get to see what a blended household with different cultures can be like. It was an eye opener but still gave me that warm home feeling.
Our decisions have a shelf life. Another major theme throughout the book was dealing with past mistakes. The mother in this story made a mistake and 30 years later was still viewed in the same way. I thought that this was so powerful because many of us are held to these same standards. Sometimes we are punished for something we did and we literally are not that person anymore. It makes you think about everyday decisions and consequences more and it also made me think about if I'm doing the same to people in my life. We should applaud when people make steps forward and not remind them of who they were. That made me think of my brother and now i am working on trying to see him for the person he is now and not who he was when we were growing up. Even when we forget about the past and move forward we still have to deal with the consequences of our actions, but no one should be held in the cage of past mistakes
Overall i think it's a great read. The prose is beautiful and descriptive. It really is a trip to a foreign land without the ticket! I recomend it and hope you read it. It was interesting to see how women function in that society. I don't know how accurate it was but it was very convincing. The book also helped me understand a little better what it is like to assimilate and what a epic struggle that can be. It made me think about our own immigrants here and if they feel just as out of water as the main character in the book did. Well thats what I got from it you tell me what you did.